Artmaking and Summer Solstice

Some clients are keen to use art in a ceremony or ritual. People often think of rituals as a cultural or religious thing; however, it can be a simple ceremonial act. For example, clients who have experienced abuse may depict their memories and feelings in the art therapy session. Then they may fold the art to create a paper boat and release it down a stream and watch it float away. The symbolism of the feelings floating away may provide relief. Another option could be to rip up their art and create a new image with their old one. Along with the transformation of their art, there can be a transformation in their thoughts, feelings and understanding. Years ago I would not have thought to put artmaking and summer solstice together.

When I graduated from the University of Toronto 30 plus years ago with a degree in psychology, there was a strong focus on science-based psychology, research and experiments. It was an excellent foundation, but there was little information about the positive impacts of spirituality and creativity on mental health. Today, I am an art therapist and psychotherapist in private practice. Art therapy is a psychotherapy tool that uses creative artmaking as the means for expression in therapy. Working as an art therapist and psychotherapist I have witnessed and personally experienced the healing power of creative artmaking. It is deep soul work, and provides personal insights, emotional expression, soothing and healing.

A World Health Organization article highlighted research that artistic expression and experiences had a positive mental and physical impact on mental health, bereavement, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, neurological disorders, autism, stroke, before surgery, trauma and abuse.[1] Creativity, according to psychologist Abraham Maslow, is at the peak of our hierarchy of needs where self actualization lies.[2] Maslow also stated, “a musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself”.[3] Shaun McNiff wrote in his book, Art Heals, that Socrates disapproved of Charamides for trying to heal the body without first engaging the soul. Curing the soul is the first and most essential thing.[4] Clearly the practice of soul work and art has a beneficial place in everyone’s life.

Blending the realm of art with spiritual practices, ceremony and rituals can be powerful. These exercises can support people with:

  • Emotional release and letting go
  • Healing
  • Clearing the slate
  • Invoking spiritual connection through artmaking
  • Celebrating the sacredness and beauty of nature
  • Summoning guidance from our higher consciousness, inner wisdom
  • Calling in things to us, invoking
  • Setting intentions
  • Creating rituals
  • Creating boundaries
  • Memorial art and honoring people who we have lost

Both Christian and Pagan traditions celebrate summer solstice. On our calendar its is on June 21st and some Christians commemorate it as St John the Baptist day on June 24th . Different areas of the world participate such as Stonehenge in England, Midsommer in Sweden and Astrofest in Croatia. Celebrations may include bon fires, dancing, collecting flowers and herbs. There are quite a few historical sun deities from all over the world that are honoured.

I created this art exercise for Artmaking and Summer Solstice Rituals using natural materials. On a piece of paper write down things you wish to let go of and/or cultivate. This paper is rolled up and tied up with twigs. I glued the burlap to secure the twigs. The rest of the art was an offering to mother nature, for blessing us with sun and her gifts. The wooden disk is coloured with pencil crayons, and adorned with pine cones, feathers, rose buds, lavender and palo santo. This art will be added to the bon fire to create a beautiful, scented smoke that will release the written words into the air.

Artmaking and Summer Solstice Twigs
Twigs bond with burlap and glue.

Art Therapy Guelph, Artmaking and Summer Solstice
Art Therapy Guelph, Solstice Art

You may want to honour Mother Nature and the first day of summer. You may choose a different way to create a ceremony with art like commemorating a loved one or releasing emotions through art and then transforming it. Artmaking can be a deeply healing and transformational experience.

Heather Caruso is a registered psychotherapist and art therapist. Her practice focuses on clients who have experienced trauma and grief, or experience anxiety or depression. For more information go to https://arttherapyguelph.com or reach out to book a get acquainted chat today, click here

[1] Fancourt, Daily and Finn, Soarise, Health Evidence Network synthesis report 67 What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving  health and well-being? A scoping review, (2019) World Health Organization. URL 9789289054553-eng.pdf (who.int)

[2] Poston, Bob, (2009) An Exercise in Personal Exploration: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, URL 308: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (ast.org)

[3] Abraham Maslow: 'A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.' — The Socratic Method (socratic-method.com)

[4] McNiff, Shaun, (2004) Art Heals, How creativity cures the soul. Shambalaya Press. Boulder Colorado.